Hey, It's Not Like President Bush Isn't Doing Anything Important These Days! or, Fresh Evidence That the True Course of Civilization is Upward

by Lee Gesmer on September 24, 2008

Here is the text of new Federal Rule of Evidence 502, eliminating waiver resulting from inadvertent disclosures of attorney-client privileged or work-product materials in federal litigation:

Federal Rule of Evidence 502
(signed into law September 19, 2008)

The following provisions apply, in the circumstances set out, to disclosure of a communication or information covered by the attorney-client privilege or work-product protection.

(a) Disclosure made in a federal proceeding or to a federal office or agency; scope of a waiver. —

When the disclosure is made in a federal proceeding or to a federal office or agency and waives the attorney-client privilege or work-product protection, the waiver extends to an undisclosed communication or information in a federal or state proceeding only if:

(1) the waiver is intentional;

(2) the disclosed and undisclosed communications or information concern the same subject matter; and

(3) they ought in fairness to be considered together.

(b) Inadvertent disclosure. —

When made in a federal proceeding or to a federal office or agency, the disclosure does not operate as a waiver in a federal or state proceeding if:

(1) the disclosure is inadvertent;

(2) the holder of the privilege or protection took reasonable steps to prevent disclosure; and

(3) the holder promptly took reasonable steps to rectify the error, including (if applicable) following Fed. R. 25 Civ. P. 26(b)(5)(B).

(c) Disclosure made in a state proceeding. —

When the disclosure is made in a state proceeding and is not the subject of a state-court order concerning waiver, the disclosure does not operate as a waiver in a federal proceeding if the disclosure:

(1) would not be a waiver under this rule if it had been made in a federal proceeding; or

(2) is not a waiver under the law of the state where the disclosure occurred.

(d) Controlling effect of a court order. —

A federal court may order that the privilege or protection is not waived by disclosure connected with the litigation pending before the court – in which event the disclosure is also not a waiver in any other federal or state proceeding.

(e) Controlling effect of a party agreement. —

An agreement on the effect of disclosure in a federal proceeding is binding only on the parties to the agreement, unless it is incorporated into a court order.

(f) Controlling effect of this rule. —

Notwithstanding Rules 101 and 1101, this rule applies to state proceedings and to federal court-annexed and federal court-mandated arbitration proceedings, in the circumstances set out in the rule. And notwithstanding Rule 501, this rule applies even if state law provides the rule of decision.

(g) Definitions. —

In this rule:

(1) “attorney-client privilege” means the protection that applicable law provides for confidential attorney-client communications; and

(2) “work-product protection” means the protection that applicable law provides for tangible material (or its intangible equivalent) prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial.

This rule comes too late for the many lawyers spending their weekday mornings in dark bars, drinking their memories away, their careers ruined by inadvertent disclosure of privileged client documents. It also comes too late to save the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on document review over the last few decades, in an effort to make sure that privileged materials aren’t produced to opposing counsel. But, better late than never. Click here to read the explanatory note on this rule.

Click here to read an earlier post on this issue: The Agony of Inadvertant Disclosure.

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